Leading Republican senators on Sunday passed up the chance to stifle racially charged criticism of Sonia Sotomayor by fellow Republicans as the opposition party struggled to develop a unified political strategy to oppose the first Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor, an appeals court judge, already faces scrutiny from conservatives over a 2001 remark that her experiences as a Latina would lead her to better decisions than a white man. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has called her a "racist" while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, saying a "Latina woman racist" is unsuitable for the court, has called for withdrawing the nomination.
The Senate's top Republicans didn't disavow those assessments, although they urged different language to oppose US President Barack Obama's first nominee to the high court.
Those appearing on Sunday's news shows walked gingerly when it came to criticizing a member of the fast-growing Hispanic population. They court a potential backlash from their conservative base because Limbaugh and Gingrich hold tremendous sway among the Republican faithful.